A Poet's Life

Mona Bethke

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This young black man…

opened doors for discourse.

Last night after working on my newest painting in the Colors series, I decided to spend a bit of time on Facebook as I’ve been doing less and less of that these days. I do seem to be spending more time dedicated to my creative side.

I knew the posts and responses that would be prevalent on the social networking site that has enslaved us would be mainly about Trayvon Martin. I was not far from correct. I read as much as I could so as not to fire up the rage even more, preventing me from getting some sleep so I would be refreshed and prepared for my work day.

Just as I was getting ready to log off, an old friend sent me an instant message. We chatted back and forth for a few minutes and then he asked me why I hadn’t written anything yet about the outcome of the case. He further went on to say that The Angry Poet surely had an opinion. I chuckled nervously in the silence of my little flat and typed back, “I’m so full of emotions and fear, I’m not quite sure what I want to say yet.” The cursor blinked for a few seconds and then these words crept across the screen.

“There is a bright side for you. Your son looks white and you are light skinned so you don’t really have to worry. I can remember back when you used to look and act white. Are you embracing this black thing so you have another platform to write from?”

Now…those of you that know me, know that no matter how much stupidity and judgment comes my way, I stay gracious and try to maintain a level of decorum in dealing with said stupidity. So, I may be treating this in a way most wouldn’t, but here goes. I have not unfriended this person, because I asked him to wait until today as I would post a response to his question. I’m sure he will click the magic unfriend button before I get a chance to do it, which is fine with me.

  • I was raised by a black man that I assumed was never comfortable in his skin. I thought he raised me to believe being black was a bad thing. He told me throughout my childhood I needed to blend in with white folks and be as invisible as I could be amongst them. Up until a few days ago, I hated him for that. I never understood why he would raise me to deny my heritage. Today, I understand his motives. He was born in 1937 and was raised in a time when lynching black folks was as common as eating breakfast. He was doing what father’s do in the only way he knew how…he was trying to protect me from a world that would judge me because of pigmentation.

  • I realized when I moved to the US from Germany in 1979 that racism was alive and thriving.

  • I realized the first time someone called me a nigger that I was going to have a hard road ahead of me as I had come from a country that didn’t judge people by their skin color.

  • I realized that many whites died during the Civil Right’s movement standing alongside their black brethren and had been murdered for it. I’d been to my daughter’s school for the third time because she got into altercations with white children about using the “N” word around her and understood that she too could be harmed for standing to her convictions about racism.

  • I realized since I cut my processed hair off and went natural that people have looked at me and treated me differently.

  • I realized the struggle I would have with my own people that treat me differently because I’m light skinned. Trust me, my struggle is the same.

  • I realized that because I don’t have the vernacular of some of my people that I’ve been deemed as acting “white.” I’m not quite sure what that means to this day.

  • Above all else, I realized the level of ignorance when it comes to human beings. Racism is not a black or white condition. Racism is a human condition. The murder of a young man regardless of ALL circumstances is a travesty in itself. A mother is without the child she bore. A family is without a son. Society is without someone who could have made a difference. Humanity is without a person that had a right to his life. The fact that a man took that life because of his ingrained, inbred hatred for someone that has been tagged by society to be a certain stereotype makes us all responsible to change that thought process. How…I don’t know the answer to that. Moreover, our legal system has been defunct for centuries. It is no longer about protecting the rights of human beings. Instead, it has become a political platform and a hub of denigrates that are drunk with power and a sense of entitlement.

  • Now decorum aside, to the asshole that actually let his fingers type those words. REALLY?

  • 2 thoughts on “This young black man…”
    1. George Mitsis July 16, 2013 on 8:07 PM

      “Racism is not a black or white condition. Racism is a human condition” …. yes it has many ugly faces besides skin color… I have experienced them, too. I think those two sentences are the most powerful and profound you have written to date.

      • R. MonaLeza July 16, 2013 on 11:45 PM

        Thank you, George!

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